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Adrian Bridge: Principal’s high-end Bairrada could be ‘the Vega Sicilia of Portugal’

Principal, the high-end Bairrada red wine recently acquired by Taylor’s Port owner The Fladgate Partnership (TFP), has the potential to become “the Vega Sicilia of Portugal”, according to TFP CEO Adrian Bridge.


A blend of Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot produced at Colinas São Lourenço in Bairrada, Principal was previously part of the portfolio of Ideal Drinks, the table wine business bought by TFP in August.

The wine – currently on its 2012 vintage and retailing for about €110 a bottle in Portugal – was described by Bridge as “the cherry on the icing on the cake” in the Ideal Drinks range.

Colinas São Lourenço is located at São Lourenço do Bairro, near Anadia, in the heart of the Bairrada region, with 56 hectares of vines on lime-clay soils. “From a quality perspective, Principal has the potential to be the Vega Sicilia of Portugal,” said Bridge.

“The Bairrada region soils are old deposits from an ancient sea, and the vineyard is about the same distance from the Atlantic as Pomerol, but further south. We’ve always felt that if we’re going to associate our name with table wines, then they had to be top, top quality.”

Principal – and the other former Ideal Drinks wines – will begin to enter a range of markets from January 2024, with TFP’s new still wines division currently finalising its channel and market strategy. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Bridge, adding that 97% of sales had historically been made in Portugal.

Asked if he had considered selling Principal via La Place de Bordeaux, Bridge replied: “It’s certainly something that we’ve considered, but we also feel that it’s appropriate to have maybe a little bit more control with our existing partners.

“We are in discussions with them and they need to reach their own judgements. But if they said they couldn’t handle it, we would look at potential alternative distribution channels.”

The company is, however, unlikely to persist with former owner Carlos Dias’ practice of waiting a decade before releasing Principal. “I’m not sure we will be able to continue it quite as he has,” said Bridge.

“It’s inevitable that probably we can’t keep them for quite so long … We want to be able to show flights of this wine in order for people to be able to understand what it’s about and the depth of quality.”

The company has stocks of Principal going back to 2008, the wine’s first vintage, with years up to and including 2019 already in bottle, and 2020-22 still in bulk.

The Ideal Drinks acquisition covers two estates in the Minho – Alvarinho producer Quinta da Pedra in the Alto Minho, and Paço de Palmeira, a Loureiro specialist; Quinta de Bella in the Dão; and, in Bairrada, Colinas São Lourenço and Quinta da Curia.

Vineyards total nearly 200ha, and wines cover a range of price points, including €25-30 for Milagres Alvarinho, €30-60 for sparkling wines, and €45 for Eminência Loureiro.

Bridge admitted that the timing of the deal “wasn’t great”, explaining: “We just had just made a major investment into [Porto visitor attraction] The World of Wine, which absorbed a lot of resources and had a difficult launch because of Covid.”

TFP has always shied away from making table wines in the Douro Valley – preferring to focus its vineyards on the production of ‘special category’ Ports – but would Bridge now be open to a Douro table wine acquisition?

“The answer is yes,” he said, “but it would be really with a specific vineyard doing table wine, and it would have to be high quality.”

Bridge said there were no immediate plans to make an acquisition, “but with opportunities like that you don’t always control the timing”.


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